Tribal Warfare

Chapter 2 of Jonathan Rauch’s The Constitution of Knowledge (2021) is ‘The State of Nature:  Tribal Truth’.  It articulates what should be undeniable – human nature is tribal.  The irrational left, however, denies or downplays this, stuck in the chapter’s subtitle of ‘Bias, groupthink, and the epistemic war of all against all’.  Elites believe tribalism (like meritocracy and rationalism) is a myth.  For example, here’s an article from 2 academics trying to dismiss tribal truth:

Repress human nature; what replaces it?  Coercive social engineering.  What is the alternative?  The Left should be careful what it wishes for:

Humans have an evolutionary history, a nature.  We are not solely the product of nurture.  Resisting that truth, pretending that humans are like silly putty, totally molded by social forces, is wrong and damaging The Constitution of Knowledge.  We’ve known this since Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and David Hume (1711-1776).  Humans are tribal and passionate.  “Reason is, and ought to only to be, the slave of the passions”.  Reason has utility, but it is not our essence.  Rauch uses 2 metaphors to make this point:

  1. Reason is like the navigator in the passenger seat, able to suggest directions but not to steer the car, our emotions and moral intuitions are in the driver’s seat.
  2. On abstract moral and intellectual questions, reason is like a press secretary, whose goal is to justify whatever position her boss has already taken.

Intelligence is no defense against false belief.  It makes it worse, as motivated reasoning and arrogance weaponizes the intellect, so it can impose false ideologies and deny human nature.  Stanovich will show us precisely how and why elites do this in our next book.  It’s getting worse.  I wrote here on 6/8/15 that society was becoming more tribal – with a growing and embittered underclass, a shrinking and angry middle class, and a plutocratic and apartheid elite.  That was over 6 years ago and it’s more so today.

The hypocrisy and self-serving, biased beliefs of the cognitive elite exacerbates tribal reality.   They continue to push us all into “affective polarization” – generating extreme emotional hostility towards opposing tribes.  Is there a way out of this nasty Hobbesian war?  Yes!  Next week, John Locke, Adams Smith and James Madison light the way through the brutal carnage.

EDIT: Stay tuned – things are heating up now. Law can be a tribal weapon:

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